Guest Blog By Peter C. Kleponis, Ph.D.
In 2006, Bishop Paul Loverde published an eye-opening pastoral letter on the plague of pornography entitled Bought with a Price. This letter brought to light a serious epidemic that has affected millions of Catholics, yet few were willing to talk about. Thanks to Bishop Loverde, and many other Catholics who aren’t afraid to speak out about pornography, more people are willing to address this issue. We have the research that shows how destructive pornography is. We have effective ways to protect individuals and families. We have effective treatment programs for those who struggle with pornography addiction. Yet, even with all this progress, the pornography epidemic has only gotten worse. Because of this, Bishop Loverde has decided to update and republish Bought with a Price. He has chosen to release the document on March 19th, the Feast of St. Joseph, Protector of the Family.
The letter begins with an Introduction by Bishop Loverde. He explains how the worsening of the pornography epidemic in America led him to republish the letter. He and many priests will readily admit that pornography use is one of the most common sins heard in confession. It wounds families and tears apart marriages. Thus, the need for the Church to address this issue is more urgent than ever.
The document continues with a Forward by Matt Fradd, a prominent Catholic Apologist who himself had struggled with pornography use. In his testimony, Fradd shares how he had become trapped in pornography addiction. He also shares how his faith and the power of the Holy Spirit helped him break free. He now travels the country warning young people about the dangers of pornography and sharing with them the freedom that God offers from this vice.
In the body of the document, Bishop Loverde discusses the current threat of pornography. Here it is evident that he did his research. He discusses how pornography has taken over the mass media and is influencing our culture, especially young people. This has led them to cheapen sex, viewing it as merely a recreational activity and not the sacred act between a husband and wife. He also discusses and debunks four false arguments for pornography:
- There are no victims, so no one is being harmed.
- The temperate use of pornography can be therapeutic.
- Pornography can be an aid in maturing, both emotionally and sexually.
- Christian opposition to pornography comes from the Christian hatred of the body.
Bishop Loverde not only addresses the problem of pornography, he also provides guidance on what can be done about it. He encourages education, use of technological safeguards, prayer, the sacraments, healthy supportive relationships, and living a virtuous life. Because pornography is still mainly a men’s problem, Bishop Loverde offers specific advice for young men, husbands and fathers. He also addresses married and engages couples and clergy.
One special chapter in the letter is entitled The Gift of Sight. In this chapter, Bishop Loverde discusses the Scripture passage from the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Here he discusses how we are ultimately meant to see God as he is. This is known as the beatific vision. While we will not see God completely until we are in heaven, we can get a glimpse of him in this life. However, we can only do this if we are living pure lives. As a sin of the flesh, pornography use defiles the body and soul. This prevents us from being able to see God and truly experience his love and grace in our lives. By ridding ourselves of pornography, we can see God and receive all His blessings and graces. We are then able to see God’s hand working in our lives more clearly and are able to discern his will better. This can also make us better lights to the world, leading others to Christ.
Towards the end of the letter, Bishop Loverde provides a study guide with questions from each chapter. There are questions for individuals, parish groups and parents. These questions can help Catholics continue the conversation about pornography and how to protect themselves and their families from it. At the end of the letter he offers a Plan of Life. These are daily, weekly and monthly spiritual practices that can help Catholics live a pure life. They include prayer, scripture study, spiritual direction, and the sacraments.
Altogether this pastoral letter is an invaluable resource for anyone who wants to understand the pornography epidemic in America and how to address it from a Catholic perspective. Readers will find that the Catholic Church offers many resources for defending against pornography and living a pure life. While not an exhaustive treatment of the issue, this letter can encourage people to seek out other resources on fighting the pornography epidemic, such as books, DVDs, conferences, recovery programs, etc. The bishops of the USCCB have decided to address the pornography epidemic in 2014 and hope to have an official statement on it by 2015. It is my prayer that it will lead more Catholics to join in the battle against pornography in our culture!
Peter C. Kleponis, Ph.D. is a Licensed Clinical Therapist and Assistant Director of Comprehensive Counseling Services in West Conshohocken, PA. He holds an M.A. in Clinical-Counseling Psychology from LaSalle University in Philadelphia, PA and a Ph.D. in General Psychology from Capella University in Minneapolis, MN. Dr. Kleponis has 15 years of professional experience working with individuals, couples, families and organizations. He specializes in marriage & family therapy, pastoral counseling, resolving anger, men’s issues, and pornography addiction recovery.
Dr. Kleponis has also been a guest on EWTN television and is a regular guest on Relevant Radio’s On Call program. Dr. Kleponis resides in Phoenixville, PA with his wife, Maria, and their son, John Paul. His recently published book, The Pornography Epidemic: A Catholic Approach is available at www.womenofgrace.com. Click here to watch part 1 of the Women of Grace TV series, Porn: The Addiction of Our Time.